Passion Sunday / Palm Sunday; Year A (4/13/2014)

Texts:Isaiah 50:4-9a Psalm 31:9-16 Philippians 2:5-11 St. Matthew 21:1-11 (Processional Gospel) St. Matthew 26:14 – 27:66 or St. Matthew 27:11-54

Prayer of the Day: Everlasting God, in your endless love for the human race you sent our Lord Jesus Christ to take on our nature and to suffer death on the cross. In your mercy enable us to share in his obedience to your will and in the glorious victory of his resurrection, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

27.11 Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

15 Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16 At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 17 So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

24 So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25 Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

32 As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull),34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; 36then they sat down there and kept watch over him. 37 Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.”

38 Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, 42″He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’ “ 44 The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48 At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54 Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”


St. Matthew 27:11-54, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ.

Who Killed Jesus?

The Passion Narratives of all four Gospels are painful to read. Each of them has its own perspective, of course, but the horrific treatment of Jesus is a common thread. In this year’s reading, from St. Matthew, Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea who serves under the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Pilate has a reputation as a brutal ruler, but in the Gospel accounts he appears to be a hapless bureaucrat. St. Matthew, uniquely, portrays him as a married man, whose wife warns him that Jesus is a “innocent man.” Yet in all four Gospel accounts, it is Pilate who hands over Jesus to be crucified.

In this year’s reading, we notice that St. Matthew is trying to shift the blame from Pilate to just about everybody else. Judas betrays him (26:14-16). Peter denies him (26:70, 72, 74). The chief priests and elders arrest him (26:47, 50), and drag him to Pilate and hand him over for trial (26:57). The disciples flee for their lives (26:56). The crowds cry out for crucifixion (27:20, 22, 23). Passers-by deride him (27:39-40). The bandits taunt him (27:44).

By the end of the story, Jesus is all alone in his agony, except for a Centurion — a Roman soldier, who had been assigned to keep watch over the proceedings.  His seems to be the only faithful response.

How do we respond, today, to the story of our Lord’s suffering and death?

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why were the religious leaders to fervently opposed to Jesus?
  2. What happens to turn the crowds against him?
  3. Where are the disciples of Jesus, as he is crucified at Golgotha?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What do I feel as I read this story?
  2. How do I understand the fact that everybody in this story seems to be guilty?
  3. What does it mean for me to profess that, “Jesus died for me and my sins?”